Marco Cáceres di Iorio

Mr. Obama, Reconsider Waging War in Syria, But If You Must…

Okay, it’s been decided. The United States will wage war in Syria (yes “war”, that’s what you call it whenever a sovereign nation launches a military attack against another sovereign nation). It will start with air attacks against ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) forces, probably as they are moving from Iraq into Syria. That way, the Obama administration can say that the US was simply giving chase to the terrorists. The attacks will likely be carried out by missile-toting unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or “drones”. That way, there is no risk of US Air Force pilots being shot down and killed or worse, taken hostage — a nightmare scenario for the US government, given YouTube.

As the US increasingly becomes more embroiled in the Syrian civil war over the next few years, there will be the distinct possibility of “mission creep”. Wikipedia defines mission creep as “the expansion of a project or mission beyond its original goals.” Google defines it as “a gradual shift in objectives during the course of a military campaign, often resulting in an unplanned long-term commitment.” … Ugh

President Obama seems to be fully cognizant of this danger, which is why he is known to be a “reluctant warrior”. His guiding modis operandi has been, “We have to be careful when it comes to using our military power because there are always unintended consequences. We’ll do it if we have to.”

Amazingly, Americans tend to view reluctance or caution in matters of foreign policy or war-making as a sign of weakness in a leader, rather than a good thing. That is, until the body bags start landing at Dover Air Force Base. Then it starts dawning on everyone… “Oh, there are consequences, we get killed too.” Only then does the distaste of war begin to settle in our palates. But then it’s too late. As Colin Powell famously warned President George W. Bush on the invasion of Iraq, “If you break it, you own it.” It’s known as the Pottery Barn rule.

Do we really want to own Syria? Our investment in Iraq stunk.

Given that we now appear to be on this path, it would behoove Mr. Obama to pick up his copy of Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War”. Ignore Hillary’s backstab. Yes, “Don’t do stupid stuff” is a great foreign policy principle to live and fight by. The brilliant Chinese military general and strategist in the 6th century BCE observed, “He wins his battles by making no mistakes. Making no mistakes is what establishes the certainty of victory… “.

Disregard the calls of the politicians, the public, and the media to be specific and constant about your strategy and tactics. The idea that war should serve as reality TV for the masses, and that all your decisions should therefore be put forth to be dissected, judged, and driven by the whims of public opinion is both absurd and dangerous. Let the people look elsewhere for their entertainment. Listen to Sun Tzu… “Be extremely subtle, even to the point of formlessness. Be extremely mysterious, even to the point of soundlessness. Thereby you can be the director of the opponent’s fate.”

Finally, try to muffle out the yelping duo McCain and Graham, and reconsider waging war in Syria. No, we cannot be the world’s policeman, and we cannot afford to be in a perpetual state of war. As Sun Tzu cautioned, “There is no instance of a nation benefiting from prolonged warfare.”

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